Six Books for Grieving Teenagers

It is a little terrifying when you realize time is escaping you. I was going to start this post by saying “last month Eleanor wrote a post about helping teens who are grieving”. But it turns out that post was in SEPTEMBER. It is DECEMBER!! I have apparently lost two months. I just needed to share that before I could move forward with the post.

So, back in September Eleanor tackled the overwhelming task of understanding and supporting grieving teenagers. Grieving is bad enough. Grieving while you are supporting grieving kids can be even harder. Grieving while supporting grieving teens? Whoa. This moody, emotional, irrational, acne-faced-mini-adult was probably complicated enough before they were grieving. Now that they’re grieving supporting them may feel totally impossible.

Today we are going to do a quick overview of some of the teen resources that are out there. This will be a post in the tradition of our other resource posts, including our review of grief journals for adults and our review of grief activity books for kids.

There are two types of resources out there – books and journals for teens and books to help adults support teams. This is not an exhaustive list of either, just a few in both categories to get you started. Excuse the formatting. One of these days amazon is going to make it easier to embed their links!

Books and Journals for Teens

Fire In My Heart Ice In My Veins

This journal has been around for a while (since 1992, to be exact) and was the first grief journal for teens that I ever saw. This book is a grief journal in the truest sense. It revolves around the death and includes prompts for remembering the person who died, resolving complex emotions, identifying strengths, identifying supportive people, addressing unfinished business, and thinking about the future. The pages are blank, rather than lined, allowing flexibility for writing, drawing, or collaging (though most questions and prompts seem to assume that a teen will write their response).

Cool factor: The cool factor is a bit lacking here. Though the prompts are good and the blank pages nice, this book isn’t the kind of thing my 14 year old self would have felt okay having out on my nightstand when friends came over or that I would have tossed in my school bag. It is a bit large and glossy, which gives it the feel of a school workbook.

The Healing Your Grieving Heart Journal for Teens

If you know anything about grief resources you know Alan Wolfelt. With resources for so many grief topics, Wolfelt partnered with none other than his teenage daughter for this one. This journal is extremely thorough and covers the widest range of grief challenges a teen may face, with over 100 packed pages of prompts. To squeeze in all this content, the spaces for responses are small, often with two or three prompts per page. Response areas are lined, making this a journal that is best for teens who really like to write, rather than those who prefer drawing, collaging, or other forms of expression. This journal has more explanation of grief in it than most others, making it great for teens who may wish to read about common grief symptoms and experiences.

Cool factor: Though I had high hopes, knowing that Wolfelt collaborated with his daughter, this book doesn’t get many cool-points. The lined pages are a bit restrictive for a creative teens and the cover is a bit of a downer. It is a better size than Fire In My Heart, in that it could be easily tossed in a purse or bookbag.

 

Chill and Spill

chill and spill from a w h

This is a journal put out by Art With Heart out of Seattle and, though not exclusively a grief journal, this journal is designed for any teen dealing with a traumatic event. Whereas the above journals incorporate a lot about the person who died, this journal focuses almost exclusively on the teen – from their experiences, strengths, thinking, current challenges, etc. Each prompt page is followed by 5 blank pages that would be great for writing, drawing, or collaging (or any combination!). This is a great journal for teen who are creative and autonomous, but may not be a good fit for teens who need more guidance and direction. One of the most exciting thing about this journal is that you can also purchase a therapists companion, should you wish to use this journal with teens in a therapeutic setting.

Cool factor: This journal is by far the “coolest” on this list, with great illustrations, bright colors, and a lot of flexibility for teens to make it work for them. It is an easy size to carry, has a durable cover, and is spiral bound. This last one may not seem like a big deal, but the fact that this journal will lay flat is huge!

chill and spill pages

Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers

This is not a journal, but rather a book that helps teens understand what is normal when you are grieving, different things to expect, and tips for coping. It is broken down between early days, coping, facing the future, and looking forward. This book is 143 pages, but each page only has text on half of the page (or less). When I first flipped through I actually thought perhaps there was space for writing because there were prompts, but there are not. If you are worried your teen won’t read a long grief book, this one is not all that long by word count and is a quick read.

Cool factor: A stock photo of sad kids has never, ever been a recipe for cool. So again, my 14 year old self would be hiding this book if a friend came over. The short pages may be a bonus for some teens, as it keeps things in manageable doses.

Books for Adults Supporting Teens

Helping Teens Cope with Death

helping teens cope dougy page

Though this book seems on the surface to be a book for adults supporting a grieving teen, I love that it is written in such a way that it easily could be read by teens. This book goes through what to expect from teens, information about teens and different types of death, tips for memorializing and coping, and information about things like nightmares, eating disorders, and physical symptoms. Though it is a short book, it is packed with great information. The Dougy Center rarely disappoints, and this is another great resource from them. If you missed it, we did a review of their activity books for child survivors of suicide here, which is another great book!

Cool factor: The cover of this book doesn’t scream cool, but the inside is great. It includes some great illustrations and quotes about grief by grieving teens, as well as covering topics in just enough detail to be thorough without being overwhelming.

Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Family Friends and Caregivers

This book does have a good intro with some details about teens and grief, but for the most part it is really just a list of ideas for honoring and remembering, and supporting, interacting, and communicating with a grieving teen. It includes some great tips on practical gifts to give a grieving teen, as well as some tips for specific things an adult can say and do to be supportive. This book may not teach a lot about the psyche of a grieving teen, but it is a good pick if you are just looking for some really concrete and specific ideas for supporting a teen.

Cool factor: Again, sorely lacking. If you use this book I would encourage reading it away from your teen and just sprinkling suggestions in here and there. Had I known my mom had a book like this and was trying to apply if, I can imagine my 14 year old self putting up some serious resistance, with a lot of sighing and eye rolling. So apply tips in moderation!

Have a suggestion of a great teen grief journal or book? Don’t keep it to yourself – leave a comment! Subscribe for more practical grief posts, right to your inbox.

March 28, 2017

7 responses on "Six Books for Grieving Teenagers"

  1. These are great — thank you! I love that you included an option for adults supporting teens. I always found fiction to be my solace when I was younger. It would be awesome to see a recent roundup of novels that really dig into grief and recovery for teens.

  2. The Grief Recovery Handbook & When Children Grieve both by John W James & Russell Friedman are very helpful for adults to help children deal with death & other losses, I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone

  3. My nephew passed away leaving his wife and two teenaged daughters. I am trying to be there for them. Don’t want to say the wrong things but want to help in every way

  4. Other grief related teen fiction….The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin and Goodbye Days, by Jeff Zentner.

  5. Thanks for these great suggestions! When my husband died over 9 years ago and my son was 12, I had a very difficult time finding much for him to read. Additionally, I was so numb I was not functioning and if it wasn’t at the local Barnes & Noble, well then in my mind it wasn’t out there. These are wonderful finds as we all need as much help as possible to learn how to function in our grief. Blessings to you for compiling this list.

  6. One way to reach teens is through fiction about someone who has faced similar challenges. It invites the reader to learn without feeling they are being given instructions. I wrote IF ONLY for just that reason, drawing on my many years as a therapist and facilitator for grief support groups with teens. I’ve heard from many teachers, parents, and friends of grieving teens that they have found it helpful, as well from as many teen readers who’ve said they felt they were reading about themselves. Published by Scholastic in 2012.

    • That is a great suggestion, and this actually seems to be a growing topic in young adult fiction. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume is a classic, about a girl grieving the loss of her father to murder. But there seem to be more and more new fiction books popping up about grief and teens. After Isaac and the Clay Lion are two that come to mind, both about sibling loss. Chasing Brooklyn I heard about recently, but have not read, and it faces the often avoided topic of overdose death. Thanks for mentioning fiction and please share other suggestions! Perhaps we’ll do a follow up post on young adult fiction.

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